Print 57 comment(s) - last by snakeInTheGras.. on Jul 25 at 2:50 PM

Smile! You might be being remotely monitored via webcam!  (Source: Ministry for the Environment)

Aaron's Inc. franchisees are free to continue to monitor laptop leasers via remote webcam spykit -- for now.
"Error: my sensor is dirty. Please take me in a steamy area... such as your shower."

Some may recall that back in May news broke of an Aaron's Inc. (AAN) franchisee remotely spying on users with a webcam to make sure they were making payments.  The incident led to one outraged couple filing suit against the company, seeking class action status.

Unfortunately for that couple -- Crystal and Brian Byrd -- there case was dealt a serious setback by Judge Sean Mclaughlin, a judge with the US District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (Erie District).

In his ruling [Google Docs], the judge refused to grant a preliminary injunction, which would have banned Aaron's and its franchisees from both continuing to monitor users with the "PC Rental Agent" remote webcam spykit and from conducting activities to obfuscate which computers had the spykit installed.

In denying the injunction, Judge Mclaughlin opens the door to continued monitoring of users, and to the company disguising how many users it monitors.

The court rules that that the plaintiffs don't have the computer any more and thus are no longer suffering harm and that they provided insufficient evidence to demonstrate that other members of the potential class are currently suffering harm.

Basically the dilemma the Byrd family's lawyers face in arguing their case is that no current employees are willing to whistle blow on their employer and discuss remote monitoring.  Furthermore, the court is dismissing a former employee who did testify against the franchisee as non-credible in so much as they aren't a present employee ("...given by Ms. Hittinger, and no other information about the current practices of Ms. Hittinger's particular franchisee location were elicited. In fact, Ms. Hittinger no longer works at an Aaron's...").  

The court seems content to take the Aaron's franchisee at its word about how many computers its monitoring, while dismissing the plaintiff's claims as speculative, writing:

In fact, according to the testimony of Timothy Kelly, co-owner of DesignerWare, Inc., on May 3, 2011, only eleven computers were transmitting information via Detective Mode to Aaron‘s franchisees. ECF No. 43, page 190. This is contrasted to the testimony that ―roughly 80 to 100 computers every month get reported stolen from Aaron‘s franchises. Id. The Court was given no evidence or information regarding the computers that were so transmitting and no information about the laptop users – that is, whether they are the lessees or others in possession of the laptops.

The problem is that while the franchisee is "cooperating" with the investigation, there is a very real possibility that it can obfuscate its current surveillance from investigators.  As the court seems content only to consider taking action if additional evidence can be gathered, and will only consider current employees as dependable witnesses, the Byrd family's trial prospects aren't looking too good.

About the only think working on their side at this point is that the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in a similar case against the Lower Merion School District of Pennsylvania who installed webcam remote capture software on its student's 2,300 loaner laptops.

However, that case had the advantage of having all the laptops be government property, and all the software installation practices being carefully chronicled in local government documents from the school system.  This case is far different as it deals with a private entity, who likely won't be foolish enough to share documentation on the extent of its monitoring or share its laptop collection with investigators.

And there's still the outstanding question of whether webcam monitoring really violates the Wiretap Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which prevent the unauthorized interception of electronic communications.  In this case, the communication is not "intercepted" per se; it's initiated by the remote party.  

Thus while most in the public would understandably be repulsed and outraged at a company taking pictures of a family in a private setting, remote monitoring is a gray area of the law, particularly when the company owns the device in question.

Law enforcement and courts have shown willingness to side against lone parties, such as a former Apple, Inc. (AAPL) technician who installed remote monitoring software on Macs to take explicit photos of female clients.  However, whether courts will side against corporations engaging in somewhat similar behavior, particularly when it lacks the overt sexual overtones remains to be seen.  After all the corporations have the advantage of having money and greater privacy capabilities on their side.

Aaron's claims it doesn't monitor users remotely as a national practice.  But at this point it may be a moot point -- companies are one victory closer to watching their customers remotely.  Customers may complain -- but until additional legislation is passed, they may have little explicit legal recourse.

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I don't get it
By AssBall on 7/20/2011 1:26:07 PM , Rating: 5
Who rents a laptop? What a waste of money.

RE: I don't get it
By SiliconJon on 7/20/11, Rating: 0
RE: I don't get it
By SiliconJon on 7/20/11, Rating: 0
RE: I don't get it
By umop apisdn on 7/20/2011 1:39:35 PM , Rating: 3
People who like to live beyond their means and coincidently have terrible credit. That's who.

RE: I don't get it
By therealnickdanger on 7/21/2011 12:18:42 PM , Rating: 3
Work for a week at McDonald's and you can afford a laptop.

RE: I don't get it
By snakeInTheGrass on 7/25/2011 2:32:44 PM , Rating: 2
Those looking to pay Apple prices for a no-name Windows box. Oh, with the malware pre-installed!

RE: I don't get it
By cjohnson2136 on 7/20/2011 2:03:29 PM , Rating: 2
I can sort of understand someone renting a laptop...I think it's stupid don't get me wrong. My question would be what does Aaron's do with all that data that is probably left on the computer when it is returned?

RE: I don't get it
By quiksilvr on 7/20/2011 2:59:37 PM , Rating: 2
Usually you are supposed to delete it from the system.

RE: I don't get it
By cjohnson2136 on 7/20/2011 4:34:39 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah but what about all the cookies and cache data that your typical user would not think about...

RE: I don't get it
By SSDMaster on 7/20/2011 6:25:10 PM , Rating: 2
Delete the profile folder.

RE: I don't get it
By Argon18 on 7/25/2011 1:30:07 PM , Rating: 2
If you rent a car, and return it with your handbag and umbrella still in the trunk, is what happens to those things the fault of the car rental company? No, it's your own fault for being an idiot and leaving them behind. Likewise, if you rent a data processing machine (laptop) and you subsequently return it with sensitive data still saved on the machine, it is 100% your own fault. As with so many things in life, your own ignorance can and will harm you.

RE: I don't get it
By NicodemusMM on 7/20/2011 6:53:36 PM , Rating: 5
TL;DR - They simply re-image it so the data is still accessible by the tech-savvy.


I've serviced in-warranty PC's for the local Aaron's locations. Typically when they get a PC back they simply re-image the machine with Aaron's provided software. Most of their customer base wouldn't know how to retrieve the old data, but a simple undelete app like Active@ UNDELETE would work. The tech at one of the locations stated that there is no scrubbing prior to re-imaging, though that could vary from site to site. I doubt they would go that far as it's a time consuming process and they're more interested in getting it back on the shelves.

~ Nicodemus

RE: I don't get it
By NicodemusMM on 7/20/11, Rating: 0
RE: I don't get it
By AssBall on 7/21/2011 7:06:46 PM , Rating: 2
DT's archaic and vague posting rules... Gotta love it.

RE: I don't get it
By nafhan on 7/20/2011 2:23:26 PM , Rating: 2
The only legit reason I can think of is if a PC is needed for only a very short period of time.

Anyway, I checked out computer rental (mostly out of curiosity) about 10 years ago, and was appalled by the high prices and outdated hardware. At that point, prices were a good bit higher than getting a monthly payment plan from Dell, etc.

RE: I don't get it
By Shadowmaster625 on 7/20/2011 2:54:29 PM , Rating: 2
I checked out computer rentals about 3 years ago. They had an athlon X2 system for like $40 a week. It was worth about $400 at the time. That fits my best estimates that 10 weeks of rental = the same price as purchasing outright. (Give or take a couplpe weeks.) Yes its an obvious scam, like payday loans.

RE: I don't get it
By DanNeely on 7/20/2011 3:37:10 PM , Rating: 2
A very bad deal for most customers isn't the same thing as a scam. If you've got any other sort of credit you'd be insane to use a payday loan/rent to own company; but some people either because they totally trashed their credit score or who due to working under the table don't have any credit history at all can't get any normal credit at all.

RE: I don't get it
By Solandri on 7/20/2011 4:07:54 PM , Rating: 5
The other reason for it is that they're unable to or incapable of saving the money to buy it on their own. Having worked with a lot of low-income people, I'd say that's actually the main reason, not bad credit. Even people with good credit fall into this trap - buying stuff they clearly can't afford on credit cards, and ending up paying 1.5x-2x as much over the many years it takes them to pay it off their cards.

The root problem IMHO is we don't teach basic home finance in school. Most of these people I talked to don't know how to balance a checkbook, or know but don't bother. They deposited their paychecks, then spent money until the ATM told them they didn't have any more money left. Then they tried to scrape by until the next paycheck.

In fact, I suspect this is part of the reason our government is so badly in debt. Too many voters either don't know or don't care about keeping spending less than revenue. So the politicians who overspend keep getting re-elected, while the politicians who are just trying to get us to live within our means keep getting demonized for "cutting beneficial programs".

RE: I don't get it
By cjohnson2136 on 7/20/2011 4:40:02 PM , Rating: 3
The root problem IMHO is we don't teach basic home finance in school.

I would agree my brother-in-law just graduated high school and opened a checking account recently so he has one for when he goes into the army. When he got his first statement in the mail and it talked about balancing your checkbook he looked at me and said, "WTF does that mean". It was seriously a facepalm moment. At least when I was in high school they had a class that thought basic money management skills which I think should be a requirement. You can know all the science and math you want but if you can't balance a check book or know how to save to money you are screwed.

RE: I don't get it
By TSS on 7/21/2011 5:17:05 AM , Rating: 2
Schools shouldn't need to. I'm sorry but i'm a highschool dropout, i've never seen an economics class in my life, but i've got excellent finances.

I'm not in debt, i've got more money saved up then most people double my income have, i've got a home fully furnished bought with saved up money, and i try to save atleast $1 every month as a minimum, and preferably as much as i can, with happens 9/12 months in a year. Even so, there are months where you simply lose money because of coinciding effects, like march for me when a lot of people i know have their birthday and all those presents add up, but i'm well aware of that and make sure i tighten my belt in februari so i save more.

How am i able to do this you ask? Not some magical accountant book or course, school education or even talent (i used to just give money away when i was very young, it didn't have any value for me). It's parenting. My dad has always taught me to be responsible with money, that it didn't grow on trees etc. He was never afraid to tell me some of the family finances when i asked for it. I often heard something like "well the city wants another $400 in taxes but it's ok i've got more then enough buffer to cover that".

He didn't teach me economics either. Hell when i go to super market i hardly ever look or remember prices, yet almost always end up with the same amount of money spent, never more then i can afford. He taught me common sense on the matter. That, if you want to live a comfertable life, you do not spend beyond your means. And if you do, you can live a much more enjoyable life then the discomfort you recieve when your finances catch up to you.

Parenting is the awnser. Not blaming schools.

And if that doesn't convince you, in addition to not having any debt i also have a 56" HDTV and 2 computers while getting about $20,000 a year. *Just* from finanical common sense. Not even any dirty tricks required, i hate being a jackass.

RE: I don't get it
By JediJeb on 7/21/2011 11:05:29 AM , Rating: 2
You sir have commonsense, something that comes naturally for some, and is the opposite of what most school kids are being taught right now.

Honestly this is exactly how our government should be acting with our money, and so should the rest of us. I do have some debts that I am paying off but I also take away from that the fact that I can changes some of my prior habits to avoid it in the future. Like not getting engaged to someone who looks at the bank statement online and sees $400 in the bank and even though she just wrote a rent check for $350 thinks she still has $400 to spend. I won't make that mistake again.

The hardest thing to convince people in general of is that they do not "Need" the 56" HDTV, but if they can save up the money, they can splurge on it without causing a problem. I still don't one a flat screen TV of any type, and I hope my 31" CRT lasts a little longer until I save up the money for something nicer, but even after spending $900 in cash for it back in 1995 it still works so something better is a "want" not a "need".

RE: I don't get it
By cjohnson2136 on 7/21/2011 11:24:09 AM , Rating: 2
I would definitely agree with as I am the same with my money. But the issue is there are plenty of people with no common sense and with the parents that don't have the ability to teach them the right thing because the parent does not know the right thing. I am not suggesting a course in economics I am suggesting a simple math course that teaches them how to handle money. The problem is, yes you might be a high school drop out and have the common sense but I would say a much larger majority don't have that common sense with no one teaching them the right thing.

RE: I don't get it
By steven975 on 7/20/2011 4:55:24 PM , Rating: 3
You forgot the part where they spend until the ATM says they have no more money, so they then use their debit card and pay those overdraft fees. Then they go complain.

The other side of that is that those who have a handle on our finances enjoy things like debit rewards, interest, and fee-free checking.

Dodd, Frank, and Obama ruined that gravy-train though.

RE: I don't get it
By Aloonatic on 7/20/2011 5:22:11 PM , Rating: 2
I think you in the US struggle with the same issue that we are in the UK with your economy and you're right about "evil conservatives" who actually want to make it so that the country lives within its means.

Fortunately, the British people just about woke up in time and we have a government in place that is willing to make the unpopular but necessary financial decisions that are needed.

One of the problems that we faced was that many of "the people" and the previous UK government have got themselves caught up in a mutually beneficial lie, i.e. that all the financial problems that we are facing is due to a small handful of highly paid bankers.

The reality is that bankers did make mistakes and leant too much, but they weren't roaming the street with machine guns forcing people to take on personal debts, and the British government wasn't complaining about the growth in the retail sector that was fuelled by them. They'd been told that recessions were a thing of the past, so they figured that they just needed to make minimum payments and if they wanted something new, just get another credit card.

Sadly, many are still in denial, and few realise that it's the vast amount of personal debt, rather than national debt, that is the real mill stone around our economies neck. People know that they can;t just get more credit any more, and banks are being more responsible, but no one seems happy to put 2 and 2 together to realise that this is the main reason why fewer people are spending on the high street.

No one wants to admit it though. It's aaaalllll the bankers' fault, they were just innocent victims, and so was the government that they voted in who kept on giving them more and more benefits and handouts.

For many who can't get credit now, renting is the only way, and suddenly there are more electrical rental shops popping up. I assume something similar is happening in the US too.

RE: I don't get it
By bigdawg1988 on 7/21/2011 2:08:16 PM , Rating: 2
For many who can't get credit now, renting is the only way

There is always the library... unless you're using it for porn or something. Which brings up another matter... how can they afford the internet plan when they can't afford the computer? What is really sad is that they probably won't even use the darn thing except for surfing the internet anyway, which you can do for free at almost any library. Problem is, they were never instructed by their parents, who were never instructed by their parents, and so the cycle almost never ends....

I wouldn't rent a damn thing from Aaron's, except MAYBE a big screen TV for the Superbowl or something, and I'd make sure I had a bunch of friends to share the cost with even then.

RE: I don't get it
By snakeInTheGrass on 7/25/2011 2:50:28 PM , Rating: 2
Uh, well the bankers / mortgage brokers were the ones running around telling people - people who I'm sure they knew didn't know any better, since otherwise they would never have signed up for these 'magic' loans - that they no longer needed to put any money down, didn't need to provide employment information or financial history, and that the value of the homes could only go up. (Not to mention jokes like interest only.)

Now that's something that someone with common sense wouldn't buy into, but for the class of people they were trying to get into taking out loans, that sounds just great - much better than pay-day loan or another loan on the car.

For the banks it meant closing fees at the time of signing and some sweeeet bonuses for the brokers and the bank execs. And then a government bailout that made them even richer.

See, everyone wins.

I don't absolve people for their stupidity - they were idiots for not even trying to figure out that if it seems to good to be true, it probably is, but at the same time, they were just idiots.

The people running the financial institutions were deliberate. Would YOU give a loan to someone you don't know with no collateral and no information about their employment? Want to give me a big loan? They were greedy, plain and simple - money 'earned' and on the books now meant HUGE bonuses, long-term issues with the loans be damned. And if by the 'government that they voted in' you mean Obama & Co., this was all going on under Bush's watch. Both parties turned a blind eye in exchange for campaign kickbacks and to woo voters, so please let's not make this some bogus red/blue party pissing contest, they're all corrupt.

FWIW, I worked at one of the 'evil' companies during those years, and I can say at least some of the IT peons wondered just what in the hell the execs were thinking with the business policies they were pushing since they didn't seem remotely reasonable for a responsible lender. And they weren't. At least the answer is clear now - bailout, giant bonuses, and retirement. Nice deal if you can swing it by running your business in a negligent manner, huh?

RE: I don't get it
By StuckMojo on 7/20/2011 4:42:54 PM , Rating: 2
Payday loans aren't so bad, it's presented poorly in the press because it makes a nice target. If you *really* need the money now, paying $15 to borrow $100 until your next paycheck (and it's the same $15 if you're paid in a month or a week, thus it's a fee not interest) really isn't exorbitant. That said, if you have credit you'd using something else like a credit card...but if you don't and it's your only choice, it's really not as bad as it's made out to be.

Multiplying it out to yearly interest APR is not exactly a fair way to look at the cost.

Disclaimer: 1) I work for a (good) payday loan company, and 2) I've taken a loan from my own company when I first started because I'd been out of work for a while.

RE: I don't get it
By FlyBri on 7/20/2011 6:04:30 PM , Rating: 2
Just like StuckMojo said, payday loans aren't as bad as many make them out to be. Yes, I'm sure there are some places that gouge their customers, and that's not right. But people don't understand the high risk (and thus high cost) involved in lending someone money without doing a credit check, especially in today's economy. Hell, they're even using credit checks as part of the job interview process.

Calculating a payday loan's fees into an APR (as payday lenders are forced to do by law) totally misrepresents what a payday loan is, as it is not a revolving loan like credit cards, auto loans, or mortgages -- it's a temporary, short-term loan.

Disclaimer: I DO NOT work for a payday lender, or any lender for that matter. I do however work in the consumer credit industry, where I am helping consumers find various forms of credit in an open, transparent, and unbiased way.

RE: I don't get it
By Fritzr on 7/21/2011 10:18:35 AM , Rating: 1
If you need a short term loan overdraft your bank account ... the fees for a similar period of time will be lower than a payday loan.

If you do not expect to be able to repay the overdraft within the 4 weeks allowed then a payday loan is what you will need as it can be rolled over even when the local laws do not allow explicit rollovers.

Best of all though is to pay bills and put the money for the trip or gadget in savings until you have enough to cover the cost. Major expenses like uninsured medical are the killers that cause the low income workers to not have even enough to buy food and pay bills. This is when payday loans become a very deadly financial trap that is very attractive when the power is shut off or the bill collectors become too demanding.

RE: I don't get it
By Avatar28 on 7/21/2011 11:06:00 AM , Rating: 2
If you need a short term loan overdraft your bank account ... the fees for a similar period of time will be lower than a payday loan

What bank do you bank with? I might have to switch my accounts over. My bank charges something like $37.50 per ITEM (up to a maximum of 3 or 4 items per day) and those fees come out the next afternoon and then you get hit by even more overdraft fees the following night. It's entirely possible to be $10 or $20 short and end up with an account that is several hundred dollars overdrawn.

Yeah, payday loans are for suckers but I'd rather give $15-20 to them than $200 to my bank for overdraft fees.

RE: I don't get it
By rburnham on 7/20/2011 7:06:33 PM , Rating: 2
I can see a need if you rarely travel, but then decide to take a trip somewhere and you feel you will need a PC on the go.

RE: I don't get it
By borismkv on 7/20/2011 4:26:21 PM , Rating: 2
Illegal immigrants are pretty common renters of home electronics and such, for one. You should see the rental places in Arizona. Almost all of their signage is in Spanish, with maybe one or two signs in english here and there around the store. Pretty funny.

RE: I don't get it
By theapparition on 7/20/2011 5:27:50 PM , Rating: 2
Why stop at Laptops?

Renting TVs make sense? Couches, dining room tables?

All of it is a major rip off unless you truely have temporary needs.

The $.25 fix....
By Indianchief on 7/20/2011 1:39:22 PM , Rating: 2
one piece of strategically placed electrical tape should take care of that problem....

RE: The $.25 fix....
By SiliconJon on 7/20/2011 1:46:54 PM , Rating: 4
Myself, I can't be so quick to equate liberty to the cost a half inch of electrical tape. The loss in liberty here is immense, albeit not surprising.

After all, divulgence is privacy.

RE: The $.25 fix....
By Indianchief on 7/20/2011 1:51:29 PM , Rating: 2
True - I should have titled it "the quick fix". Obviously, there is a bigger issue - but in the short term, its a quick kiss my butt solution.

RE: The $.25 fix....
By Solandri on 7/20/2011 3:57:03 PM , Rating: 4
I'm actually curious where this case will lead. If you strip out the corporation vs. individual aspect of it, it becomes:

Joe agrees to lend Frank his laptop for a certain amount of time in exchange for $x. Joe installs monitoring software to make sure Frank doesn't steal it. Frank claims it's a violation of his privacy because the monitoring software could be abused.

It's an interesting conflict of personal property rights vs. privacy rights and, once you strip out the anti-corporation bias most people have, I'm not really sure where the proper balance lies. The school case IMHO was very different because the school was an agent of the government, and the laptop (or its equivalent) was required by the school. In this case, you have two private parties willfully entering an agreement.

RE: The $.25 fix....
By Hyperion1400 on 7/20/2011 4:50:15 PM , Rating: 2
Most likely, it will hinge on whether the use of monitoring software was enumerated in the contract...

You know what, this is as good a time as any people:

(this is where the link would go!)

Every single one of you needs to read this and be prepared to draw it from memory any time you read over and sign a contract, to keep you from getting (literally in some cases) raped.

(How the hell is posting a link to contract law spam DT? Does my 2.2 rating and 200 some-odd post count, count for f$^% all now? Anyway, google "Uniform Commercial Code" and look for the like to Cornell University...)

RE: The $.25 fix....
By jhb116 on 7/20/2011 7:01:44 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think that applies in this case because a person is paying a fee for use. I believe this case becomes more tenuous if this plan is rent to own which is popular with companies like this.

My major issue (outside the invasion of privacy) is that where does this lead/end - cameras in our cars and houses since most of us don't technically "own" them until the final payment is made??? Very slippery slope.

I am surprised that most are conversing on the stupidity of renting versus the outrage to the obvious invasion of privacy. It seems like if the FBI/police try to do something to provide a better service to citizens, like scanning license plates of cars on public streets, then there is a huge outrage but it is ok for some minimum wage jack-off to monitor us and likely post these pictures/videos to the internet??? It seems like we have our privacy priorities are bass backwards.

RE: The $.25 fix....
By Black1969ta on 7/21/2011 4:21:09 AM , Rating: 2
So the Judge says this is ok because Aaron's owns the Laptop, and only use it rarely???


By that line of Thinking I could own a Victoria's Secret or some any other type of store and install Camera's in all the dressing rooms and Restroom's. Honest Your Honor, We don't observe every woman who goes into the woman's facilities, only once in a while.
Jeez talk about a judge who needs disbarred.
How is this not a violation of wiretapping laws, not even John Q lawman can get away with doing that.
I could understand a Lo-Jack type of Software or hardware in the laptop, but not Remote video or even audio.
On the other hand, for those who don't mind being overexposed, get one be late then put on a show, include something that is rare enough to be able to Bing or Google search, so that if and when it gets onto the Internet you can really sue Aaron's for everything they have.

RE: The $.25 fix....
By TSS on 7/21/2011 5:43:16 AM , Rating: 2
It's pretty straight forward though. The proper balance would be no monitoring. If i'm going to steal a laptop after renting it i would wipe that spy kit along with everything else off the laptop the moment i rented it. It wouldn't even boot up once with their windows or whatever on it. So the software makes no difference in preventing crime in that regard.

It can't be because they need to identify the thief, you can't tell me the place where he rented the laptop isn't loaded with security cameras. The thief might have had a fake ID but not likely a fake face. If somebody else stole it either it's fraud or stupidity and the original borrower should repay the cost of the laptop.

Otherwise, yea, people are still going to not return laptops. Thats the nature of some people, they steal. Hell there's even a thing called "kleptomania", or compulsive stealing. They end up in jail or mental hospitals so they can be helped, or atleast that's the idea. Where in all this comes the regular joe that abides by the rules but still has a stranger looking at his face every so often just to see if he's not doing anything wrong.

Strip out corperate bias my ass. I doubt there's even a single thing in america that hasn't got corperate bias, positive or negative, engrained into it.

RE: The $.25 fix....
By superstition on 7/20/2011 2:05:42 PM , Rating: 2
And a contract to fix that.

"The plaintiff violated the terms of the contract by modifying the device with the application of tape in order to prevent said device from functioning according to agreed-upon parameters.

The plaintiff, in order to make restitution to the company, will be required to go through TSA security twelve times within a period of five days."

RE: The $.25 fix....
By theArchMichael on 7/20/2011 3:25:35 PM , Rating: 2
That's tantamount to torture because it will likely produce chafing... down there.

RE: The $.25 fix....
By SleeStack1 on 7/20/2011 2:14:23 PM , Rating: 2
Literally and figuratively, electrical tape would be a band-aid fix.

What about remote microphone enablement? Remote LAN access? etc.

This issue is definitely a principle one.

It really is as simple as Invasion of Privacy to me.

If the device was deemed stolen, there better be iron clad proof before someone goes snooping.

RE: The $.25 fix....
By cjohnson2136 on 7/20/2011 4:42:30 PM , Rating: 2
I would say if the people have not paid their bill and not returned the computer then in the interest of knowing where the companies property is I would say go for it. But if the person keeps paying the bill then no it is an invasion of privacy.

RE: The $.25 fix....
By peternelson on 7/21/2011 4:48:47 PM , Rating: 2
If the equipment was not returned by the agreed date, or payment is overdue, then the police, some bailiff, or attempts at location can be made. This does not need a webcam, just a ping and traceroute would help location eg by similar means to the NSA's patent on IP geolocation. A determined thief could just tape over the camera and mic.

I suggest that if you use the service legitimately, then before you return the equipment, "Help" them re-image it, by totally scrubbing the hard drive. Your kindness in this matter will ensure that you know no trace of your personal data remains, including any webcam capture to disk they ran as part of the service.

It could morally be argued that running extra processes on your computer is stealing your electricity.

Better still is if they are remote accessing your webcam LIVE before any breach of contract on your part. Here is where it gets interesting because they are not simply using "the public Internet", but are transiting over YOUR PRIVATE NETWORK. That is using your LAN, or the wifi network between your access point and the machine. This is not public property. I'd suggest you could sue them for "theft of service" as Cable networks can, or accessing a private network without permission. However to increase the chance of enforcing this, write on a piece of paper "You are accessing a private network without permission. Disconnect immediately. If you fail to disconnect you hereby agree to pay our standard access fee of $500 a day or part thereof". Then hold this paper up in front of the webcam, so giving them notice. As further evidence you can log the packets they are sending back to their machine using packet capture software. The increase in traffic would likely have alerted you to their live session in the first place, assuming you knew of the possibility of such activities.

It's an important issue of principle because they are not just sending email, they are STREAMING VIDEO. That uses up your ISP tariff capacity fast which costs you money, which at very least would be damages.

IANAL but you could try this route in some small claims court, or at least generate some newspaper publicity that would discourage the company from continuing to act this way. You may be able to shut down the remote access using some firewall settings anyway.

RE: The $.25 fix....
By Natch on 7/21/2011 12:23:57 PM , Rating: 2
"Um, yes, hello, Mr Indianchief? This is Bob, over at Aaron's.....yeah.....we were wondering if you could take the electrical tape off your laptop's webcam? Why?? Well, your wife is pretty hot, and she has a tendency to dance around half naked after her shower......"

How does webcam monitoring help?
By VoodooChicken on 7/20/2011 2:27:43 PM , Rating: 3
How does seeing a customer's living room help determine if they're paying their bills? Doesn't the balance sheet AT THE COMPANY determine that???

RE: How does webcam monitoring help?
By Manch on 7/20/2011 3:10:45 PM , Rating: 2
Bc if they're running around the living room( or bedroom if that's where it's located) naked them they obviously cannot aford to wear out their clothes due to lack of funds. Which implies, they cannot afford to pay their rent for the laptop! Duh!

Maybe they could sell the captured footage and apply a credit to your rent to own account!

By DanNeely on 7/20/2011 3:39:17 PM , Rating: 2
It's (assuming it's not abused) not to determine if someone is paying; but to try and spot something to locate it for the repo man if they stop paying refuse to answer the collection agency and aren't at the location given on their rental application.

By peternelson on 7/21/2011 5:01:17 PM , Rating: 2
Taking this idea a step further, they are not only concerned about your paying THEIR bill, they NEED to know proactively if you are still paying your OTHER bills, because if you stop paying for phone, gas, credit cards this could be a warning sign that you might default on your agreement for the computer loan by missing payments in future. They are therefore fully justified in not only watching your activities in your living room (just to be sure you did not die of a heart attack), but of screen capture and remote desktop of your computer when you log into your internet banking system, just to make sure you are still paying OTHER creditors. In conjunction with this method, a keylogger will ensure they have your banking passwords so that in the event you forget to pay them, they can helpfully login and make the transaction for you direct from your bank account.


Our legal system
By mcnabney on 7/20/2011 1:59:17 PM , Rating: 4
Once again, we have the best legal system that corporate America can buy.

It fixes everything
By icanhascpu on 7/20/2011 2:09:54 PM , Rating: 2
Even retarded judicial decisions!

Violation of most ISP's ToA
By Blessedman on 7/20/2011 3:10:34 PM , Rating: 2
99.99% of most ISP's consumer plans prohibit this type of action.

USA legal madness
By Ozziedogg2011 on 7/20/2011 7:45:52 PM , Rating: 2
....another example of the legal insanity of post PATRIOT Act America. Though, to be fair, as an Aussie we seem to be heading full steam ahead into the same legal shitstorm as fast as we can.

The finer points of the Companies right to install or use survelliance software are irrelevant to me. The point is there is -no way- that this is moral behaviour in any way, shape or form.

Is there -any- Legistation based apon good old fashioned morality anymore?

By blueeyesm on 7/21/2011 10:33:43 AM , Rating: 2
Apply one standard Band-aid over lens. Ensure he padding covers the lens adequately.


I wonder..
By Souka on 7/21/2011 1:29:43 PM , Rating: 2
I wonder if there's a company that rents shower heads to girl dormitories?

Hmmm.... such posibilities!

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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